To help speed the movement of crops to market and keep Illinois farmers and crop haulers competitive with agriculture operations in neighboring states, Governor Bruce Rauner recently declared a harvest emergency.
In other news, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has made public the results of Teach Illinois, a yearlong effort to better understand and address the state’s teacher shortage.
Governor declares harvest emergency
The Governor’s harvest emergency declaration is in effect from September 10 to Decemebr 31. It enables crop haulers to seek free Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) permits to exceed legal maximum gross vehicle and gross axle weight limits or the vehicle’s registered gross weight, whichever is less, by no more than 10 percent on state and federal highways under IDOT’s jurisdiction, except interstates. Federal requirements prohibit inclusion of interstates.
The action bridges the gap between the 2018 harvest season and a new law the Governor signed August 25 that takes effect next year. Going forward, that measure will allow for an annual harvest-season easing of gross vehicle and gross axle weight limits for agricultural commodities haulers with a free permit.
Farmers and truck drivers carrying agriculture commodities will benefit from increased efficiencies, and the declaration will also help mitigate such variables as weather and commodity markets. Permits will once again be issued at no charge, but applicants must obtain a route authorization number every two weeks. The harvest emergency permit and other information on the permitting process can be obtained through IDOT’s automated permitting web application.
Neighboring states Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin automatically ease highway weight limits at harvest time. The harvest emergency declaration will help Illinois’ farm families remain competitive with farmers in neighboring states until the new law takes effect next year.
Illinois is home to 71,000 farms on 26.6 million acres. Marketing of Illinois’ agricultural commodities generates more than $19 billion annually, and the state’s food and fiber industries employ nearly 1 million people. The state ranks third nationally in the export of agricultural commodities, with $8.2 billion worth of goods shipped to other countries, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Addressing teacher shortage issue
Over the last four years, the ISBE has addressed teacher shortage issues through legislative and regulatory changes, yet some school districts continue to struggle to staff classrooms. In September 2017, ISBE launched Teach Illinois, a yearlong initiative building on work already taking place in Illinois. Through Teach Illinois, stakeholders sought to better understand staffing challenges facing school districts, identify policy solutions and craft responses to those challenges.
As part of Teach Illinois, a partnership between ISBE and the Joyce Foundation, state board officials conducted more than 40 focus-group sessions and heard from more than 400 teachers, parents, students, principals, superintendents, college of education deans and other partners. Challenges identified include the problems recruiting teachers faced by rural and high-poverty urban districts. Also discussed were encouraging practices and thoughtful policy ideas about licensure, teacher leadership and teacher diversity.
Like many states, Illinois is struggling to ensure the state has a highly effective, diverse teaching corps to fill its classrooms and help students get ready for college and careers. Far too many bilingual, special education, rural and high-poverty classrooms lack trained educators. In response, ISBE will work with partners across Illinois to advance the following policy recommendations:
• Coordinate a statewide campaign to elevate the teaching profession and inspire young people to join the profession.
• Incentivize and create opportunities for P-12 and postsecondary institutions to work together to create streamlined pathways into the teaching profession.
• Support partnerships between school districts and teacher preparation programs in order to closely align teacher supply and demand.
• Develop innovative, results-based approaches to educator preparation.
• Develop and adopt a research-based bar for licensure that leads to a highly effective and diverse workforce.
• Promote teacher leadership and career pathways with differentiated responsibilities and appropriate incentives.
• Develop teacher mentorship and induction programs.